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City is definitely not everybody's brand of poison, that's for sure. Neither is Strapping Young Lad. If you don't like City, you're probably not going to like any of SYL's other material. Now that that's out of the way, there's a very good reason why this band, and this album in particular, are so well received even a decade and a half after its release. City was Devin Townsend's second album as the Strapping Young Lad and his first with a real band ensemble. 1995's Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing was, in Devin's own words, a focus "on dissonance and just being as over-the-top as I could." Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing was Devin's angry but not completely formed response to the music industry. City, on the other hand, is a record that is at times brutally sincere in its misanthropic denouncement of all things human, and that is half the difference. The other half is the band that backs Devin. Gene Hoglan's robotic drumming, coupled with Jed Simon and Byron Stroud's sonic attack results in some seriously face-melting stuff here. The reason this band and this album are so revered are that their music has staying power, as long as you're in tune with Devin's particular wavelength. The thing with City is that it's a more rewarding listen; the songs are well-crafted and have true staying power.
The songwriting on City has matured quite a bit from Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing and laid a new sonic groundwork for SYL's future recordings. This is a record that is equal parts chugging, vitriolic riffing and chunky, syncopated hooks as opposed to a bunch of angry screaming and noise mired in a crushing wall of sound. While the angry screaming and noise is still there, it's much more refined than on the first album and on the whole adds to the experience as opposed to numbing the listener. The opening combo, Velvet Kevorkian and All Hail the New Flesh, sets the tone for the rest of this album, full of bombastic and dissonant guitar noise while Devin unleashes apocalyptic screams. Most songs on the album are either fast, rocking thrashers stuck behind a nigh-impenetrable wall of production and sound or grooving, slower jams that contain just as much ferocity as the fast songs. Songs like Detox and Underneath the Waves are more like the former; they're fast, they're balls to the wall, they're angry and they're full of bipolar rage fueled by a constantly chugging, bass-heavy guitar attack and Gene Hoglan's near-perfect timekeeping skills on the drums. Another album highlight is the lyrically nonsensical AAA. (maybe nonsensical isn't the word; it's more a series of thoughts that are strung together with music) AAA is a slower, syncopated groove that proves a nice breather from the superfast Detox and Home Nucleonics. The only real curveball on this album is the song Room 429, a cover of a song originally by the industrial rock group Cop Shoot Cop. It can be kind of jarring after the sonic assault of the past half-hour, but it takes on a very nice menace when filtered through Devin's sensibilities.
As I've stated previously, the production is very noisy; loud isn’t really the right word, although the music is really loud. Devin uses his much favored "Wall of Sound" technique on this album and it proves to help the listener immerse themself in the music. It feels more like you're right in the middle of it instead of listening to it on a stereo or with headphones. The guitars are chunky and heavy, the drums very punchy and commanding. Unsung hero Byron Stroud's bass adds more sonic texture than anything else, but it helps add a bottom end to the sound that would be quite lacking without it. Devin's youthful voice (read: before he fucked it up) is ever present, screaming in ways I never thought a person could until I heard this record.
If you're a Devin fan or fanboy, then you should already have this record. If you're looking to get into Devin Townsend's music, you should definitely skip SYL for now and save it for later, unless you're into extreme music. However, for those of you who want to get into SYL and don't know where to start, this album is a pretty good place to do it. The evolution of SYL's sound is very apparent here, but City is very different from anything else Devin has released under his SYL moniker. It's an exhilarating experience on its first listen, and proves to be just as entertaining upon its fiftieth. While City may have its flaws, they're few and far-between. City proves to be a great exhibition of Devin Townsend's youthful rage and proves to be a rawer, more true expression than just about anything else he released with SYL. Anyway, enough gushing about this record. Run, don't walk, to your nearest copy and play that shit.
A little intro to this review... I entered this album, nearly completely oblivious to most of Strapping Young Lad's work, and under a friend's recommendation. I'd only heard a few assorted songs beforehand. So all in all, I had entered this album with a completely unbiased mind.
One thing I must point out, is that the production on this album is actually pretty good. It's harsh and abrasive, but everything's still really clear. Lo-fi this is not. Not saying lo-fi is bad, but this is just really aggressive, and for modern metal, this is actually a really good production job.
Now, onto the music... I was for the most part, disappointed. Yeah, it's heavy. Yeah, it's brutal. But to me, in terms of musical construction, it seems like a haphazardly arranged collection of riffs, with the occasional soundclip here or there to give a pseudo-"industrial" feel. A lot of these riffs don't seem to flow into one another at all, and it seems like a mess.
There's a clear stylistic divide here between the songs... they are all on either end of the spectrum here (except for "Room 429", which I'll discuss later). Each song is either an extremely fast thrasher; or an extremely slow track, with an almost chant-along quality to it. But there's one thing that remains the same between the two, and that's the riffs.
The majority of these riffs are pretty bad, and are plagued with everything that is wrong with modern metal today. They seem to be a mix of either second-rate thrash throwaways (with the fast songs), or bad groove/Pantera worship (with the slower ones). Downtuned riffs that generally only involve 3-4 notes, with frequent overuse of chugga chugga palm-mute... the two biggest offenders here being "AAA" and "Oh My Fucking God". To put it into perspective as to what you can expect, riff-wise, the majority of this CD sounds like it could be on one of the latest bad Slayer albums, or on the CD of some groove-worshipping metalcore band that nobody cares about.
The bass and drums, well, there's not really a lot to say here. The drums have some interesting fills here or there, but that's about it. Gene Hoglan, an obviously talented drummer (no need to even mention that) is behind the kit, but he's playing such pedestrian music that I can't see his full potential by listening to this alone. The bass, pretty much just plays root notes and follows the guitar, I don't really notice it at all throughout the album's duration.
The vocals? Really, really irritating. When he's not doing clean vocals that are placed over the music seemingly at random, he sounds pretty much like the bastard child of a modern, aging Tom Araya, and the singer from System of a Down. If it's not already clear yet, the vocals are basically just lame shouts.
Then there's the song "Room 429". It's so vastly different from each other song on the album (aside from quality), that it sticks out like a sore thumb, and I can't see any reason justifying its inclusion on the album. It sounds like it came from some horror film soundtrack, which in and of itself, is not that great. It's pretty near entirely keyboard driven, and even the vocals have changed from bad shouts to an overly theatrical, try-hard, "scary" raspy voice. If there had been other songs on the album like it, then fine I guess, but as it is, it doesn't fit, and it destroys whatever little cohesion the album had.
All in all, the album is a recipe for disaster. I see some past reviews for this album. A "magnum opus"? "One of the best metal albums ever"? 90's all around? Give me a break, it doesn't deserve that kind of praise at all. This album COULD'VE been really great, if it's musical components didn't embody everything that is mediocre and generic about metal. If you like adventurous, artistic metal, I advise you to avoid this dud, at all costs.
This is the Strapping Young Lad album to which all others are compared and fail to live up. It's a lightyear beyond anything else the band managed to do and it wouldn't have been totally inadvisable for Strapping Young Lad to have just ended after it. It's probably the band's most 'serious' album thematically and doesn't have the silliness of works before or after it, and it has the best songwriting the band ever achieved. If you had to get one release from them, this is really it; it's a great metal album and worth just about anyone's time.
Strapping Young Lad never really changed sonically, so what sets this apart from the other albums is really just a matter of songwriting. It's simply better here; the riffs are catchier and more epic, the vocals soaring and ferocious, and the drumming fast and brutal. The production is thick and full (as expected from Townsend) and all the instrumental performances are perfect. Unlike other Strapping Young Lad albums, though, which can seem sort of confused with the instrumental elements not really coming together into a coherent whole, this feels perpetually sure of itself and never faltering. The songs are very simple and not really as varied as other Strapping Young Lad works, but what it lacks in overall complexity it makes up for in consistency and a focused musical vision. This fits the darker, more serious tone of the album: it's not a half-joking record like other Strapping Young Lad material, and is as such befitting of a more direct and cohesive treatment.
The atmosphere of this album is surprisingly dark. The lyrical themes of technology, alienation, and misanthropy are presented in a very direct and unyielding fashion, and the music follows suit. Stretches of simple tremolo burst into soaring melodic solos or monolithic held chords over a perpetually rushing drum performance courtesy of Gene Hoglan. It really is Strapping Young Lad at its best, where all the disparate elements which make up their style finally come together into a single brilliant whole. It's really the sort of crossroads where extreme professionalism manages to meat an inherent sense of artistry, resulting in something that's almost unbelievably listenable while still retaining depth after multiple listens.
The album possesses a sort of understated elegance about it. Describing anything about Strapping Young Lad as understated seems strange, but at least this album has none of the inherent goofiness of the other releases. It's Strapping Young Lad's magnum opus in a way; not only did they not eclipse this album, they never really seemed to try to, acknowledging that this was the best it was ever going to get. It possesses all the traditional elements of the band but manages to perfect them. Riffs careen out of control and vocals howl and drums smash through the soundstream but none of those elements on their own mean anything. This is truly a release that is much more than the sum of its parts.
I'm not sure what to say about this album and I think I've wasted enough time, but suffice to say it's very good and worth the time of just about any metalhead. Say what you will about Strapping Young Lad, but this is undeniably near the top of the metal pantheon for reasons that can't be adequately described. In short, it just works, and you owe it to yourself to hear it.
Now THIS is more like it! Following Strapping Young Lad's promising yet scatterbrained and inconsistent debut Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing comes the band's first truly unified release, and goes to show how important all of the musicians are to making this beast of a band what it is. The end result is City, an outstanding album in every respect, heavier than you wouldn't believe, and easily one of the best metal albums of the 90's.
Describing what City sounds like is not easy, even to those familiar with the band's first album. I suppose the biggest influences to City's sound are death metal, grind, and industrial/noise, but even that doesn't cover all of the bases. Just realize that however you categorize this album, this is HEAVY metal in every sense of the term. Devin and Jed's riffing is loud as fuck and razor-precise, and Byron Stroud's bass and Gene Hoglan's drumming forms one of metal's most devastating rhythm sections, with Hoglan in particular putting in an absolutely monstrous drum performance, continuing to make the argument for his status as one of metal's top drummers. But, like all legendary albums, what makes City truly special is something that can't simply be dissected into the playing of the different band members.
While the contributions of a full band are definitely a large part of what makes this a huge step forward from the debut, rest assured that the main reason that City is such an amazing album is Devin Townsend. Townsend's now trademark multi-multi-multi-track production techniques and signature vocal stylings are in finer form here than perhaps they ever have been, and his unique songwriting talents get their first real chance to blossom with the support of experienced musicians. The music in City is harsh, caustic, angry, and incredibly loud, with certain segments almost overwhelming, but never unwelcome, in their devastating Wall-of-Sound approach. Yet Townsend's penchant for catchy melodies and infectiously poppy riffs is not absent here; in fact, they are just as vital to City's excellence as the brutally heavy parts. Some of the best parts of the album come when one of Devin's brilliant hooks or clean vocal lines bursts in when you wouldn't expect it: the keyboard lines in the climax of "All Hail the New Flesh", the catchy-as-fuck-riff in the middle and end of "Detox", the closing yells to conclude "Underneath The Waves"; both sides of Devin's musical personality make their presence known, and it works beautifully.
Devin's vocals are also in top form. Avoiding the somewhat strained screeching of later SYL works, his voice sounds much more natural here, screaming and singing (usually something of a halfway point between both) with real emotion and heart rather than with bland technique, and always when he feels it best suits the music, rather than conforming to a strict written pattern. In typical Townsend fashion, lyrics are simple, down to earth, and to the point; these definitely aren't Cryptopsy or Emperor lyrics. While some may find the lyrics are lacking, I honestly believe that Devin wouldn't be able to turn in such a memorable vocal performance if they were really complex, and they serve the angry nature of the music just fine.
Best songs? All of them really. Intro "Velvet Kevorkian" opens the album with a march-like beat, building tension before launching into "All Hail The New Flesh", one of the best songs Devin has ever written. "Oh My Fucking God" features an amazing torrent of rapid fire vocals, tongue-in-cheek screeches, and segments of pure, unadulterated noise that come together to make the album's heaviest and most insane song (and one of the heaviest ever). "Detox" is slightly more restrained but no less mind-blowing, with the aforementioned riff being one of the best of the album, followed by the short "Home Nucleonics", an absolutely vicious track that features some of Gene's best and most creative drumming. "AAA" slows down the pace to a catchier groove before the album explodes again into "Underneath The Waves". This song never seems to get the recognition is deserves compared to the rest of the album, but it is definitely one of the best cuts.
Now we get to "Room 429", the Cop-Shoot-Cop cover. I'm going to be honest-I don't like the way this track was put in here. Its a good song and is covered in a good way, but it would have been much better as a bonus track at the end of the real album, rather than before the last song. It just doesn't fit well with the rest of the album, and is the only thing holding this back from a 100 for me, but no matter; move it (or delete it) on iTunes and you'll still have 34 minutes of some of the best metal ever. The album closes with the monolithic "Spirituality", an immense, slow epic that finishes the album in a perfect way. Devin's vocals are especially awesome on this song.
If you don't at least give City a chance, you are missing out. Its that simple. Whatever you may think of Devin Townsend or the newest incarnation of Strapping Young Lad, City is an album that every metalhead should hear. Its loud, heavy as shit, and packed to the brim with incredible and inventive songwriting. Strapping Young Lad was formed because Devin Townsend was angry; at people, at the world, at himself, and City is a monument not only to Devin's anger as a young man, but also his brilliance as a musician and songwriter. While Strapping would again reach near-perfection with 2005's Alien, City is the band's real magnum-opus; this is a work that has, and will, stand the test of time in metal circles. A must-have, and a masterpiece.
There is very little to argue, this is quit possibly the angriest record ever produced. Devin Townsend is a bi-polar, maniacal, balding desecrator of mankind. He has got to be one of the funniest looking musicians of all time, but he never ceases to release his seemingly endless aggression throughout almost the entire album. Don't take his image too seriously; he is one brutal motherfucker, and one of the most consistently good songwriters of our generation. Gene Hoglan needs no introduction, as he IS the best drummer in metal today. Don't argue, there is no superior you goddamn flower metal lovers! Hoglan would eat the drummer from Edguy's throat given the chance, so shut up.
The album opens up with Velvet Kevorkian, the first seven seconds are kinda weird, but before long, Devin shouts quickly, and a crushing, midpaced chunk comes in to start demolishing your face. Usually, chunky riffs piss me off, but this one works magnificently with the chanting vocals. Even the small drum fills sound amazing, nothing difficult.... but nonetheless awesome. This segues directly into the blazing All Hail the New Flesh, never before has melody sounded this damn heavy. Tell me the vocals aren't great, especially his cleanish screams. There are no words to describe what went through my head the first time I heard "I will never be afraid/ I'll die for what I BELIEEEEVE!!!" Truly a great opener.
Now for one of the ultimate in angry..... Oh My Fucking God. What a stupid name…. what an astounding song. How can anybody who likes extreme metal hate this song? One of the craziest, fastest, poundingest(yeah that’s right, fucking poundingest) metal tracks ever. Afterwards, two more classics (Detox and Home Nucleonics) roll over you. AAA sounds like a scene in some stupid movie where a guy drives his low rider through the hood in slow motion. Just listen and visualize, you’ll see.
All in all, everybody who was drawn to SYL due to the success of Alien, listen to City. It is far superior in almost every aspect. One of my only problem is the juvenile lyrics. It is not necessary to say fuck every other word. We know your angry dude, don’t sound so stupid. Also the album kind of loses it’s punch near the end, but it’s all great. The atmosphere is less apparent than on Alien, but this was before that, and SYL’s crowning achievement to this day.
Its no secret about my passion for Devin Townsend and his work and there is logic to my reasoning. Devin and the music he creates exemplifies everything that i love about music in general. It can be in a somewhat classic rock vibe, a thrash vibe, a bluesy vibe, or just plain old pop rock. And it is with this that Devin simply unleashes all the fury and frustration of everyday life which in turn becomes Strapping Young Lad. The opener is a blasting and upbeat intro that opens up a astral gateway to the madness that awaits you. Then the song All Hail the New Flesh is one of the most ferocious and earth pounding songs on this record. It totally numbs you with a sonic boom as if you had just witnessed a earthquake. with a opening lyric [i]Hey man, im going to fuck this shit up[/i] you know you are in store for a wild and crazy ride. The band is truly at the top of its game here and while Devin and Jed rip open your lungs with their screeching guitar riffs, Hoglan is crushing the atomsphere with his immortal drum playing. The way that Devin screams on this song makes you envision yourself losing your soul which is trying to escape your very own carcass.
The song Oh My Fucking God opens up with a narration ( perhaps taken from a movie? ) while the riffs come crashing on you like waves of thunder and all the while Devin sings so fast that it almost becomes incoherent.Other parts of his vocals on here feel as if Devin is heeving up his internal organs. The keyboards add a nice touch to this song as well especially towards the end where it feels as if a bunch of ants are crawling all over you. By far my favorite song not only on this album but of all time is Detox. The amount of energy that Devin and the boys create here is overwhelming and powerful. Using a basic chug riffing at the beginning it takes no time for the rest of the band to jump in and create havoc. Without a doubt this song was made for moshing and i cant keep myself from continuely headbanging to this classic. It seems that Devin has poured a lot of energy and emotion into this song as if he was screaming for help only to meet frustration. My favorite part of the song is during the break and Devin jumps into this lyrical passage [i]How, did i get here tonight?, what am i looking for?, how did i reach this state?, how did i lose my sight?, Im lost. Im freaking. and everybody knows, everyone watching. So here's, all my hopes and aspirations, nothing but puke, God, its so lonely[/i] This passage speaks volumes not only in this song but to me as a person. i cant help but get emotional while listening to it. There are many songs that people listen to to unleash their frustration, anger, and sadness and this song is one of them.
Underneath the Waves has a rip like riff from the get go and it reminds me a bit of early Megadeth which can never be a bad thing. This is probably one of the more chaotic songs on this album in terms of riff arrangement. Listening to this song it is so amazing to see how Devin can keep up his vocal range as he has long drawn out screams of chaotic lunacy. The keyboards are a very nice touch at the break point giving the listener a sense that maybe a brooding war is about to commence. The song is just unrelentless from start to finish and i wouldnt change a FUCKING THING ABOUT IT. The song Room 429 is probably the most diverse and odd song on this record is Room 429. Starting out with a creepy keyboard sound much in the likes of King Diamond Devin starts to kick out his dark and morbid vocals. One can get a sense from this song that Devin is maybe sounding like a very twisted version of Captain Howdy. Even some of the background vocals remind me of movie scores like The Omen or The Amityville Horror. It has that creepy sound yet is almost laughable at the same time. The band has a lot of energy and chemistry and it shows throughout this record.
If there are any problems on this record i cant find any. This is Devin and crew at their most extreme and excellence.This album will forever be a landmark in this band's career and a ode to the emotional turmoil that we all suffer while we continue our journey in life. There are many other albums and styles that Devin has created but this is one that truly stands out. For anyone who hasnt had the opportunity to check out Devin's work this would be a great starting place.
I don't have any sort of rhyme or reason as far as the music I like goes, but a lot of it has to do of whether or not it's an individualistic concept or not. Of course, songwriting can always overshadow that, but let's not go off on tangents here. So, here, we have Strapping Young Lad. Devin Townsend's quasi-serious outlet for aggression, but complete joke as far as Metal goes. That's probably insulting somewhere, as his joke is single-handedly more brutal and intense than every other album ever crafted, save a handful.
Immediately, you'll notice an industrial influence. That's about as far as genre-picking will take you, thus the individualistic concept. There is NEVER a quiet moment, or a chance to breathe on this entire fucking album. There's no ballad, there's no touchy-feely acoustic bullshit, it's one-hundred per cent fucking Thrashing-ass, brutal Metal that makes that utopian balance between those odd, dissonance-covered-by-synth melodies that Devin Townsend's known for. The album starts with a violent marching beat, "Velvet Kevorkian," before introducing the substance of the album with the Thrashy "All Hail the New Flesh," a song jokingly proclaiming a self-centeredness about Strapping Young Lad. The song builds intensity one momentous section after another, and features fantastic drumwork, as always, by way of Gene Hoglan. Epic vocal performance, as well. Devin's gritty yell and high-pitched squeal works wonders for making this band a bit more distinctive.
That's all fine and dandy, though. "Oh My Fucking God" is the heaviest song ever recorded. I'm sure it's pretentious, but when we were all children, and we heard our first Slayer song, or Anthrax song, this is where those bands were made to take us. This song is so bludgeoning heavy that even on a studio LP, it inspires complete violence. God forbid you be driving in a school zone, you will try scoring points for children down. This is the type of song that any Metal band dreams about making, but never seems to pull it off. It starts off heavy with incredible drumming from Gene Hoglan, and builds. And builds. And builds. Faster. Speedier. Thrashier. Deathier. Noisier. Until your goose-bumps are gone and your cephalic blood vessels have caused a strangle-hold on your brain, and still it's not over. You sploosh your pants and then it's all over. Listening to this song is essentially milking your prostate, but in a good way.
Though "Oh My Fucking God" has been crowned heaviest song in the universe, things do not let up throughout the course of the album. Next is "Detox," an epic but Thashy song with a beat that's so mosh-friendly that you might just burn a hole in your floor stomping around. Second to "Oh My Fucking God" on "City," is "Underneath the Waves." Though most reviews tend to overlook this song, and I don't see why, this song is the most frantic and psychotic of the bunch on the album. The blistering guitar work spirals out of control as Devin Townsend gives you a straight-jacket atmosphere while he yells "Say goodnight" in the most insane vocal performance I've ever heard. Period. It won't take long for you to begin screaming your lungs out to the most anger-friendly chorus ever assembled.
"City" is the Metal album of the 90's, and I feel completely comfortable saying that. Sure, there are albums that are mind-blowing, redefine genres, whatever. None of them are "City". None of them are a complete assault on your ears. None of them will inspire a smuch angst as this album will.
This fucking album is a fucking weak one, the fucking music of fucking SYL consists of fucking... are you fucking surprised? Well, I was contaminated by the Hevy Devy fucking syndrome. There are more "fucks" on this album than notes or beats. Devin is really fucking pissed off.
But forget about this fucking aspect. Now, towards a more precise analysis of the musical content. The song structures are way too rigid, with many industrial nuances included. The riffs are lame and really simplistic, they sound so mechanical and lame, with no real feeling. If it comes to industrial metal, Godflesh and Ministry managed to be percussive and relentless, but not this. This is no guitar god business for sure. The drums are also very, very mechanical and accurate, but the rhythms are lacking flexibility and hearing such simplistic songs does not make me too happy. Devin is the main figure for this album. This guy has got balls for an entire army of freshly-fired taxi drivers. He is loud as fuck, he possesses a great voice, but here fucking comes the fucking problem... These fucking lyrics would have fucking been written by my fucking five fucking year old fucking sister as well. Fucking dumb.
An overrated album, that is for sure. Anyway, Hevy Devy fanboys make sure you get this. I am not one of them, so if this shit is what a city means, I'll choose the village.
Oh Fucks Yeah!!! I totally adore this album (and I don’t care how cheesy it sounds!). I strongly urge anyone interested in SYL to consider this album as a purchase.
Buying this was one of the best things that happened to me since I discovered that my dad had subscribed to the ‘adult’ channels on satellite before leaving home.
Where to begin… How’s aboot the beginning jackarse!
The intro, Velvet Korvakian is really cool although it begins with a noise that sounds like someone tapping a spoon against a radiator. It then sets the tone for the album by bursting into an overwhelming huge sound that really does sound like a city at rush hour humming at you. When Devin Townsend’s expert vocals cut in with evil snarling of phrases like “Fuck sleep! Fuck all of you!” you actually feel it. And similarly when he shouts “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.. WELCOME THE FUCK HOME!!!” this normally preposterous phrase actually sounds right and (on a personal level) actually makes me think and feel: Yeah. I am home.
On we go to All Hail The New Flesh, which a metal hammer reviewer amusingly claimed in a review recently was entitled All Hail The Dog…. maybe a special edition? All Hail… whatever it’s hailing is a damn good song. The guitar starts up before Gene Hoglan’s immense skills on drumming (only rivalled by the immense size of his avalanche like gut) opens up a cacophony of noise that would send Steve Irwin himself running for cover! Through this seemingly impenetrable cyclone Devin’s vocals cut through and guide the listener into the comparatively safe territory of some background atmospheric keys and a rhythm that by this point has cut in by a very well written and orchestrated change of pace. As you feel yourself diving head first into Townsend’s sick vision of heavy metal the keys etc. cushions the blow but also tries to pull you in several directions at once creating a real insane outcome. The song is very uplifting at the chorus where Devin yells “all you are, is all you are” before a brilliant riff comes in driving into a section with keys creating a vision of .. I’m not sure but it’s unbelievable.
Oh My Fucking God is one of the heaviest songs your likely to hear, but as in the last song Devin’s knowledge of song writing keeps it from descending into the monotony which I associate with Morbid Angel and other so called ‘heavy’ bands. There are all manner of sound effects and build ups and interlude sections, including a bit that actually makes you feel nauseously disorientated to listen to and you appreciate the literalness of the title. You come out the other side with some intentionally uncomfortable sound effects, like a bunch of violins being plucked all at different time signatures. I love the fact he quite clearly knows what to put where and what effect it will have.
Then comes the song Detox. It’s a fantastic song, full of… everything. The fist time I heard it I was struck by how much was packed into it and was quite frankly bewildered The bouncy riff comes in before Gene Hoglan gets this evil machine on the road and Devin comes in at intervals with lyrics, beefed up with some keys for good measure. The song progresses in a similar way kept interesting by the change of rhythms here and there and additional effects before it builds to another impenetrable section which one might now recognise as a build up, and one’ed be right. Just as you feel like your getting lost again Devin comes in with a truly sky cracking yell of something that could be inefficiently described as anger and before you know where you are a real catchy riff hijacks you and flies you to somewhere near the ozone…. or possibly the cosmos. Cutting through this ecstasy eventually comes some extremely neurotic and paranoid lyrics (“How did I get here tonight!?!/What am I doing here?!?/ How did I reach this state?!?/How did I lose my sight!?!). Following this some very well thought out keys come over the top to add some emotion and depth for the final burst of really quite distressing lyrics as Devin screams “I’M LOST!!! I‘M FREAKING” and “So here, All my hopes and aspirations, THEY’RE NOTHING BUT PUKE!!!, GOD I’M SO LONELY!!”. Then you come off this cloud 9 of neurosis and fall back into the main riff which is permeated by some extra melody and a middle aged man describing the functions of nerve cells (and damn me it sounds right!) before a final tortured cry leads into that catchy riff and the end of the song.
If you ever hear only one SYL song, make it this one.
Home Nucleonics hits you full in the face with a wall of sound amusingly prompted by an audio effect which states “the beat starts hear”. It’s a nice contrast with the last song and, although pales in comparison, it’s unashamedly heavy, in the vain of Oh My Fucking God. It pounds you, pulls back into an interlude before coming back at you to pound you even more and continues in much the same way till the end of the song (where you may collapse).
AAA is whilst a good song the closest thing approximating to a filler track on this album, then again that‘s not saying much. It begins with Devin whispering some vocals which build up in a threatening way with some pounding guitar and drum crescendoing, and then suddenly drops to just Devin whispering “but no one hears so no one knows AND…” The song then comes alive with a very full multi-layered sound whilst Devin yells “NO ONE FUCKS WITH ME!”, which continues in much the same way until the end.
Any feelings you had aboot AAA leaving you out in the cold are literally blasted (possibly storm-blasted) away by Underneath The Waves, which kicks off with an utter face-fucker of a riff (I really thought I’d never say that phrase ever). Its got the same emotional intensity as Detox and the same styled keys and atmospherics designed to add emotional force. You might feel a bit of empathy if you ever felt like you’re weary of your apparently hum-drum existence, because the song’s aboot how it fells like life goes on and on and how you can get disenchanted with it all, especially in light of the fact that it may be for “Fucking Nothing!”. Great stuff.
Track 8 is a Cop Shoot Cop cover of a song called room 429. I’m of the opinion that the lyrics really make this song fucking brilliant. It reminds of an extremely weird but kick ass movie called 2046 in that it covers a hotel room being a link to (amongst other things) the past memories you cherish and are ultimately haunted by. It’s also aboot how you can escape inside the domain of a room, surrounded but yet isolated and cut off from everyone surrounding you. I’ve often thought aboot things like this, esp. at university halls where you could be less than 2 metres away from someone but yet so far away. It also connects with the title of the album where, despite the vast number of people all around you, in a city you can often if anything feel even more lonely and isolated.
The closer is Spirituality, which is a lot calmer but no less overwhelming than the rest of the album. You get the impression that Devin’s settling down after a hellish day in this nightmarish city to sleep and all his fears, whilst not disappearing, are subsiding for another day. He states how tired he is of “all you sick stupid people” (and who hasn’t felt like that in a world where people still choose to read tabloid newspapers and kill each other for no real reason) and every night “I pray to God they’ll hear me”. You really catch a look at genuine heartfelt negative emotions voiced with impressive skill and succinctness. The track ends with the feeling of being absolutely spent and shutting down for the night, presumably to wake to the same agony all over again, and rather creepily concludes with the choked whisper of Devin saying “I found a way out of here”.
This is a really brilliant original album that has a superb amount of talent and emotion pumped into it. City takes you to another place, and can prompt you feel all manner of emotions and there isn’t a single thing I’d change aboot it.
Not even the price.
This is Strapping Young Lad's second album and first with an actual band (not as in Devin Townsend and chums) with veteran drummer Gene Holgan (Dark Angel, Death for example), future Fear Factory bassist Bryon Stroud, Jed Simon and the man himself, Devin Townsend.
The first three songs have Gene smashing his drumset like a madman and Devin Townsend's vocals rising about them but you can barely hear the guitars at times although the songs "AAA" and "Room 429" (which is actually a cover) being more restrained so you can hear the guitars. The riffs are chugga/groove/thrash all mixed in a way.
Devin actually has a range so he can go from his trademark loud crazy vocals to a death metal growl and even to a black metal shirek! a couple of examples Devin's versatility is the fifth song, "Home Nucleonics", and seventh, "Underneath The Waves".
The album slows down after the speed peaks at "Oh My Fucking Song" (winner of best song title 1995) and ends in the melodic (SYL style) song, "Spirtuality".
The lyrics can seem to be silly at times but they (make some sort of) sense if you read them from a certain perspective. Though there is some daft nonsense immature quality about the lyrics and the sixith song (that being AAA).
There is also the usage of keyboards and samples (not often) in the album that appear at the following songs: Oh My Fucking God, Home Nucleonics, Underneath The Waves, Room 429 and Spirituality.
The album's main fault are the lyrics that don't make sense at face value and the unbalanced mix at the beginning of the album, which Gene's over Enthusiastic drumming drowns the guitars before making way during the course of the album.
Overall, this is a mixed bag of an album, full of musicians of have the talent to produce an album that destroys the boundaries of sound set in stone. It would worth to listen to this album at least once.
My initial review of this album wasn't so good. I simply put it off as a loud, jumbled mess not worth examining. Thankfully, I was horribly wrong in that assumption and now recognize this album as the unique monster it is. The technical proficiency of each band member is amazing, to say the least. Although a lot of clashing elements give the false impression of poorly structured songwriting, there is something brilliant buried beneath the dissonance and cacophony.
Think of Fear Factory on speed, and you may have a good mental portrait of Strapping Young Lad. A mix of Thrash and Industrial metal is an appropriate description of the sound. The one aspect that really turns me off sometimes is the vocal work of Devin Townsend. Although there's a fair amount of variation in his approach (really pissed to extremely pissed), I can't get over how annoying he sounds. Anyway, Gene Hoglan is a fucking maniac, putting almost every other drummer to shame in terms of speed and technicality. The riffs are killer, and barely ever slow down enough to make a huge impact, but an impact never the less.
"Oh My Fucking God", "Underneath the Waves", and "AAA" are superb tracks, but the whole album is pretty consistent in quality. I hope this will be a reminder to everyone that first, or even fifth impressions aren't always the best.